United Arab Emirates

The Desert Was Never Empty

One fact about the United Arab Emirates (commonly reduced to “Dubai”) seems clear to most foreign commentators. It is completely fake. Twenty years ago nobody could name an artist, poet or figure of any cultural authority from the UAE. The place was a remote corner of an empty desert peninsula that somehow became independent in the slipstream of decolonization. It was only thanks to their hydrocarbon resources and a shrewd touristic PR strategy that they could buy their way into the community of “real” nations.

In that case the art boom in Dubai can only be testimony to the fakeness of the whole art world. As disparaging critics note, the West seems to beg: “You can buy our Louvre, our Guggenheim, our Damien Hirsts if you want to. You need our culture, we need your money. We throw in the elegant party crowd for free.”

This pavilion belies all that. Mohammed Kazem has been working hard in his native Dubai and abroad for two decades. He has found his way onto the local and then international scene slowly, through his merit and hard work – not catapulted as a national symbol of success.

Now reflect on this after having visited the show: has your image of Dubai/the UAE changed? And if so, has the country not truly mastered the art of national representation?

Robert Kluijver

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Pavilion

Organizer/Commissioner:
dr. Lamees Hamdan
Artist:
Mohammed Kazem
Curator:
Reem Fadda
Budget provided by the state:
undisclosed
Open Call?
No
Selection procedure:
The commissioner initiated the participation of the UAE and invited the curator and artist. The exhibition is funded by the Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development.

Curator

Name:
Reem Fadda
Gender:
Female
Born:
Kuwait, 1979
Lives and works in:
The United States of America
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
2

Artist

Name:
Mohammed Kazem
Gender:
Male
Born:
The United Arab Emirates, 1969
Lives and works in:
The United Arab Emirates
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Dubai, Mainz

Politics & Economics

State System:
Federal emirates
Ruling Political Party:
Islam-inspired liberalism. Each of the emirates is ruled by a different dynasty.
Population (World Bank, 2011):
7,890,924
GDP per capita (World Bank, 2011):
$45,653
Net OECD ODA Aid Donated (2011):
$94,223,000,000
Military Expenditure (SIPRI, 2011):
No data

Alliances


Arab League
Non-Aligned Movement
OPEC
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
WTO

Conflicts

Country independent since:
1971 (from Britain)
Last Major Border Revision:
1972 (the emirate Ras al-Khaimah joins the UAE)
Colonial History:
Former British protectorate
Global Militarization Index (BICC, 2011):
13
Nuclear Force?
No
Ongoing Conflicts and Disputes:
Ongoing conflict with Iran over the Iranian occupation of the islands Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb.